Research aims to change weight-making culture

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  • Research into the ways jockeys and stable staff control their weight has been boosted by a £208,000 grant from the Racing Foundation.

    A “ground-breaking nutritional intervention programme” will be developed over the next three years at Liverpool John Moores University by a team which has spent several years researching the “serious health implications of extreme weight-making practices in jockeys”.

    The research will be led by Dr George Wilson, who rode as a professional and an amateur National Hunt jockey, and includes the head of nutrition for cycling’s Team Sky. It will include stable staff who ride out as well as jockeys.

    Dr Wilson said: “I thank the [Racing Foundation] trustees for recognising the importance of the work we have done, and that our expertise in designing healthier alternatives to commonly employed practices can be extended to helping stable staff.

    We aim to implement an alternative nutritional and lifestyle intervention throughout the workforce in the UK racing industry who are required to maintain weight, which will positively impact on physical and mental health markers, and change weight-making culture.”

    In addition to offering university facilities to measure bone and body composition, hydration and metabolism, and provide strength and fitness assessments, Dr Wilson will work with racing organisations to provide workshops, tests, presentations and bespoke advice in the main racing centres across the country.

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    Dr Jerry Hill, chief medical advisor at the British Horseracing Authority, said: “This team has established itself as one of the foremost research groups in jockey sports science and medicine. A PhD studying jockey nutrition and welfare is already under way at the university and we look forward to applying the findings of this project to further assist jockey athletes with good health and nutritional practices.

    “Stable staff face the same challenges as their professional colleagues and often have to make weight in the same way. While it is uncertain what the long-term effects of traditional weight-making practices are, the short-term physical and mental health problems are clearly documented.

    “Further research, and more importantly educational interventions, to improve health and wellbeing of the racing community’s participants are a priority for me and the industry, which is why this funding is welcomed and greatly needed.”

    Anyone interested in learning how to control their weight while maintaining health and performance is invited to join the trial, which will start in December. Email g.wilson1@ljmu.ac.uk.

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